“Brute Force and Ignorance”
That is the title of a song, written by the late Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher. It also is a fair depiction of the human, knee-jerk reaction to a seemingly unsolvable problem, such as banging on the television to address erratic reception or kicking the tire of a stalled car as if that would bring the engine back to life.
Likewise, the song title may describe the “square peg in a round hole” approach I’ve sometimes taken to fight back against ALS. Admittedly, the knowledge vacuum encapsulating this disease has led me to throw all my residual strength toward, by outward appearance, some questionable intervention strategies.
Case in point: Through a Thai immigrant, I was introduced to a holistic Eastern medicine approach to combating chronic illness, even something terminal like ALS. It all centered around regular (three times per week) Thai massage. As he explained, the massage would be challenging, often painful, and occasionally, temporarily crippling. He would employ many different (and often the hardest) parts of his body: legs, fingertips, elbows, knees, and arms. Often they would be used in combination, so the massage may become a very contorting and entangling affair. In short, it’s not for the faint of heart. But the temporary pain (as intense as I could stand) would give rise to an evacuation of toxin and awaken dormant muscles.
In parallel, he suggested an accordion-like, seven-day, recurring detox diet plan. My options for approved food would gradually thin out on days one, two, and three, culminating with complete fasting on day four. Then the allowable menu items would thicken in reverse order for days five, six, and seven. This regimen needed to be strictly followed, indefinitely. Ideally, it would be augmented by a steady intake of herbs, frequent deep breathing practice, the occasional application of a natural topical, and the benefit of magnetic fields.
If I could remain committed to both the scream-inducing massages and highly restrictive diet, he would agree to lead me. That some folks whom I trusted implicitly vouched for his sincerity, coupled with the fact that he obviously wasn’t trying to make money on it, caused me to carefully consider the offer. Seriously, what did I did I have to lose? I performed the requisite due diligence and made a decision. With some trepidation, knowing that I would be flying in the face of conventional wisdom, I decided to bet on OUR combined brute force and western medicine’s collective ignorance about ALS.
Turns out, I was not disappointed. Of course, I was not cured as my new friend predicted that I would be, but tangible gains were realized. Whether via placebo, Hawthorne effect, or actual treatment efficacy, I regained the ability to climb and descend stairs and prolonged the ability to safely drive a car. Less dramatic improvements were also achieved.
Through similar reasoning, I later experimented with acupuncture, chelation therapy, self-healing qi gong, reiki energy healing, and a fruitation diet. Perceived benefits included improved speech and swallowing (acupuncture), greater range-of-motion (qi gong), and increased oxygen saturation (reiki). Independent from published studies, my curiosity, along with Rory Gallagher’s brand of zeal, has landed me at times far askew of the traditional medicine-dispensed guidance, but better off for the diversion.
Not unexpectedly, the above-described approach has been met with criticism. Physicians invariably are alarmed. Some PALs are as well. Once, at a support group meeting, I shared a portion of my experience. One man, bitter with the hopelessness of ALS, took exception to my “futile effort.” Noting my faith, he offered, “Why waste your time, don’t you believe God will save you?” To which I responded by quoting Saint Ignatius: “Pray as though everything depended on God; act as though everything depended on you.”
At first glance, that appears to be a duality, but if done properly, it’s a harmony of the highest human order. And it’s the ideal accompaniment for occasions when one has no choice but to exert brute force and ignorance.
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